Post Mortems

S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Clark Gregg Talks 'Pros and Cons' of Coulson/May Twist — Plus, How [Spoiler] Is a 'Scarier' Ultron

As Season 4’s “Ghost Rider” arc came to a close, two agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally cracked open that bottle of Haig, sharing extra-warm, knowing smiles across the rims of their Old Fashioned glasses.

Thing is, one of those agents is not who they seem to be.

But more on that in a moment. For now, let us talk simply of the idea that Phil Coulson is finally steering his oft-tested friendship with longtime colleague Melinda May in a very new direction. “In different moments, it’s certainly something that has to have popped into their heads,” Clark Gregg tells TVLine of the fall finale’s sharing of whiskey. “And I love the difficulty of it. I love how dangerous it is because this is a job whereagents-of-shield-may-lmd family relationships really are not possible in the normal sense. She is so much more to him than a coworker.”

Why do we feel like there is a “but” coming…?

“But I think there’s a reason that they’ve been working together for more than 20 years, off and on, without crossing that line,” Gregg continues. “Certainly, with the passing of [May’s ex-husband] Andrew Garner, something is different now, and that possibility is being explored. But… I don’t know. I have really passionate feelings [about it], pro and con, you know what I mean? We’ve all been in a situation like this with a very close friend, I think, and… boy, it makes me nervous just talking about it. If it’s anything like the rest of the show for poor Coulson, it’s going to end up in heartbreak.”

Acknowledging the growing closeness between the agents, Gregg says, “These poor horses at some point should be let out of this barn before they kick the rest of the slats out. On the one hand, it’s like, ‘All right already. If it’s going to happen, let’s go.’ But nothing is that simple on this show.”

The specific agents-of-shield-aidacomplication here being that, unbeknownst to anyone at S.H.I.E.L.D., Dr. Radcliffe’s first successful stab at an uncanny android, Aida, has stealthily replaced May with a lookalike LMD (Life Model Decoy).

“That’s certainly a whole new part of the equation,” Gregg notes. Though it should not discount the significance of “Philinda” finally happening. Says Gregg, “I think there’s something going on between the actual Phil and the actual Melinda that is different.”

Director Mace of course flagged, loudly, the unknown element that LMDs present, name-checking the villainous A.I. from the second Avengers film: “Does no one remember Ultron?!” So how might Aida and any “offspring” differ?

“The real difference is that they represent people that we know, and that it’s not a big robot baddie,” showrunner Jed Whedon explains. Adds EP Jeffrey Bell, “And [LMDs] are not omniscient. They don’t have access to all knowledge, and all information, and all other machines the way that Ultron, and to a lesser extent, Vision did.”

Rather, “How much they know and how much their agenda is mixed with their own emotions, those are the sorts of questions are what we’re going to dive into,” Whedon says. “But I think the main difference is these are our people. And that’s what makes it scarier.”

Oh, and there is one other difference: “They also won’t build 10,000 versions of themselves,” Whedon says, “mostly because we don’t have $200 million.” (With reporting by Scott Huver)

Want more scoop on S.H.I.E.L.D., or for any other show? Email and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Ryan says:

    “Philanda”? Shouldn’t it be “Philinda”? Her name isn’t “Melanda May”.

  2. Lisa says:

    I’m so looking forward to the LMD storyline! I hope that Aida is not fundamentally evil. But i’d love to see the conflict between Aida and Fitz and Radcliffe, since both of the latter are basically her fathers. Fitz especially seems to be very friendly and gentle to Aida than most, so there’s a lot of potential for a couple of interesting episodes.

    • George says:

      Maybe she’s just a survivor, as she was probably programmed to be. On the other hand, we don’t know what effect the Darkhold had on her. It is interesting that in all their examinations of the Darkhold, the agents have failed to ask two vital questions: Who wrote it? Why did they write it?

    • I think she is not fundamentally evil. I think the darkhold just brings out your deepest fears and darkest desires. Eli desired to be more than normal and feared not being recognized for his work, the darkhold twisted that. He was not always evil. I think Aida will think she is doing what she was designed to do, replace agents with LMDs so they are not in any physical danger. Is it twisted yes, but it is still kind of what she was made for. That’s my theory.

      • Sarah Li says:

        Agreed, I definitely see Aida as not being innately nefarious but more of taking her desires, which arise from her basic programming, too far. I personally favor villains who are like that–they tend to be more interesting than your cookie-cutter revenge-driven psychopath or power-hungry megalomaniac. She was designed to be the shield, to protect her team from danger. That’s her ultimate purpose, the sole reason for her very existence. Like you said the Darkhold called to her deepest fears and desires–the fear of either losing those close to her or seeing them experience the pain she herself now knows all too well, and the desire to protect them at ANY cost whatsoever. After witnessing May, Fitz, and Coulson barely escape the claws of death, I could see her wanting to take matters into her own hands but realizing her friends would never approve of her methods. But remember the “at any cost” part? She has to be subtle, to start with one person, and use them to slowly manipulate situations until she can stealthily replace everyone close to her with LMDs. Looking forward to learning more about the Darkhold also…who created it? Where did it come from? I’m thinking probably aliens.

  3. Callie says:

    I’m really hoping that AOS won’t go for the romantic route for these two. These two work much better as co-workers. Imo they just don’t really have much romantic chemistry and most of their scenes in this season feel forced. May has been OOC ever since she died, when it was shown in the winter finale that AIDA kept the real May, I had a brief moment where I thought she kept the Real May since she died, that’s why she’s been acting so out of character lately.

    Looking forward to Aida, though! Mallory has been doing a great job this season. Can’t wait to see more of her.

  4. BoomKing says:

    A suggestion of a romance between Phil and May. Where have I seen that before? Oh, yeah, the last time May was switched for a doppleganger.

  5. Bradley says:

    I’m wondering if the Aida sub-plot might be reminiscent of the Original Star Trek episode “The Ultimate Computer”? Or maybe I don’t know what I am talking about.

    • xyz says:

      I was thinking that too. Her job is to protect shield agents from harm. IF they are all LMD, they are protected from a certain point of view.

  6. xyz says:

    Phil is very good at noticing things. Remember the guardian he had on the ship? He figured that out. Is the new May more agreeable than the real May?

    • Nathan Everett says:

      I mean she is for all intents and purposes May. All her thoughts and feelings, everything. So it’s going to be harder to figure her out

  7. laurelnev says:

    As someone May’s age who has had male BFFs my whole life, PLEASE do not stoop to a “Harry Met Sally” type of “men and women can’t be friends” type plot. Men and women CAN be close with no sex involved at all; there is a different type of intimacy friends experience. And most middle aged folks do not want to lose a multiple decade friendship when t he romance doesn’t pan out. There IS such a thing as “friend chemistry” you know. :)

  8. Shoe says:

    I vote for friendship between these Phil and Melinda. While they do have chemistry, a romance between them now feels like it’s happening because every other romantic partner has been killed off. Besides both of them are already married to their jobs.

  9. Murphy says:

    Lol. Does anyone who *doesn’t* live in his mother’s basement watch this ridiculous show?